Sotheby’s to auction seven-foot Spider sculpture worth up to US$20 mln

This season in Hong Kong, Louise Bourgeois’ near seven-foot Spider IV will lead one of the strongest offerings of Contemporary Art ever presented by Sotheby’s in Asia

The artist pictured with the steel version of Spider IV in 1996. Photo: Sotheby’s

With an estimate of HK$120-150 million (US$15-20 million), Spider IV is the most valuable modern and contemporary sculpture ever to be offered at auction in Asia, and the first of Bourgeois’ famous Spider series to come to auction on the continent.

Measuring an arresting 80 inches in wingspan, Spider IV is a wall-mounted Spider which is purposefully created to be installed – as if crawling – up a wall, with unrivalled arched limbs and intricately coiled extremities. This extraordinary, captivating work will go on view later this month at the Pedder Building in Hong Kong, providing collectors and public in the region with a first opportunity to view and experience first-hand (by appointment) the haunting and mesmeric power of what is undoubtedly Bourgeois’ most enduring and iconic motif.

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Captivated by the idea of the Spider, Bourgeois returned repeatedly to its forms throughout her career, creating five editions of the subject (numbered I to V) in the mid-1990s, three of which are wall-mounted. Examples of this kind are also extremely rare on the market.

Sparking primal emotions from fear to comfort, the form of the Spider also provides Bourgeois with an important artistic channel to explore emotions surrounding her childhood. Bourgeois herself once proclaimed that the arachnid’s traits reminded her of her mother, “She was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider.”

Spider IV created by Louise Bourgeois. Photo: Sotheby’s

Bourgeois also related an extensive dream narrative about visiting a home – that was in fact in her subconscious – where a spider acted as both a threatening predator and a nurturing presence, fostering creativity. As the Spider wove, so Bourgeois drew and sculpted.

It wasn’t until the 1990s, later on in her career, that Bourgeois crafted her first sculpture of the subject, having previously only experimented with arachnids in the form of drawings, dating to 1947. Spider IV was first conceived in 1996, and was subsequently cast in a limited bronze edition of six plus one artist’s proof the following year. Not only does Spider IV rank among her most revered series, the sculpture itself was clearly important to Bourgeois,
chosen by her to feature in a now-famous photograph, taken by her personal photographer Peter Bellamy, in which she wraps her arms lovingly around the spider’s two wiry hind legs.

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